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- Ladainian Tomlinson: Legend in the Making

Matt Bathrick January 28, 2007
Matt Bathrick

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In its storied past, the NFL has seen some great legends play the running back position. In their day, legends like Jim Brown, Emitt Smith, and Walter Payton have set the high standards with their hall of fame numbers and their amazing skills. And now in this modern era, there is another back we can watch join their status, if not run right past them. He is Ladainian Tomlinson, halfback of the San Diego Chargers.
Having only played six seasons so far in the league, we have the privilige of watching a man in his prime run down the road to becoming possibly the greatest running back in NFL history. He's well on his way. In 2006, he became the fastest player to reach 100 touchdowns.
In an interview this season, Coach Schottenheimer said that he's had the opportunity to witness many greats. Then he added, "I believe he's the finest running back I've ever
seen in professional football."

His numbers are amazing. After six seasons, he has already rushed for over 9,000 yards, the fastest to reach that mark in the league. In 2006, he broke a number of records. These include:
-Most touchdowns in a single season(31)
-Most rushing touchdowns in a single season(28)
-Most points in a single season(186)
He averages over 1500 yards a season on 4.5 yards per carry. And he's always involved in the passing game. He averages about 480 yards receiving a year. In 2003, he became the first player in history to rush for at least 100 yards and catch 100 passes in one year.

While his moves have been compared to those of Emitt Smith, his humble attitude reminds us of Barry Sanders. "For all the skills he has as a player, they pale by comparison to the person," coach Marty Schottenheimer said.
You never hear him brag in an interview, and neither will you see an endzone celebration. Whenever he scores a touchdown, he almost always just respectfully hands the ball to the nearest ref.
"The biggest thing I tell people is if your son or your child is ever going to be a superstar or famous, you want them to be like him," teammate Shane Olivea said. "He's the most humble, unassuming, laid-back person you can encounter. For as much success as he has, it's just like it never goes to his head. It's so rare to see that. It's refreshing."
LT credits his family for his demeanor. "I mean, to me, the celebration or the drawing of attention was in the play," Tomlinson said. "People see that play and that was the 'ooh, ah, wow.' Then when you get in the end zone, there's no need to do any more 'ooh, ah, wow.'"
He has done one touchdown dance, back in Pop Warner. "The ref walks over to me and says, 'You know that dance you just did young man? You can't do that until you get into the
National Football League."
Six NFL seasons and 111 NFL touchdowns later, we still haven't seen that dance.

If he plays six more seasons and averages the same numbers as the first six, he will have 18,352 career rushing yards, 3 shy of Emitt Smith's record. He will have had the most 1,000 yard seasons, beating Emitt Smith's record with 12. His 200 rushing touchdowns will have crushed Smith's record of 164. And its scary to think about if he gets even better on this journey.

And to think, San Diego could have had Michael Vick instead. In the 2001 Draft, the Chargers traded their #1 first round darft pick to the Falcons for a #5 pick. Atlanta used that pick for Vick, while San Diego selected Tomlinson. It can be said that San Diego made out better. While Vick has proved to be a great rushing QB in Atlanta, he has not proved to be a good passer. His behavior has also gotten him into trouble on several occasions. On the other hand, Ladainian has not only been a great running back, he has been able to pass when needed to. He has thrown 10 passes so far, 7 completed and 6 for touchdowns.
Good deal San Diego.

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